Tentative City of Trail budget calls for 4.5 per cent tax hike

A preliminary budget released by City of Trail staff is calling for a 4.51 per cent increase in residential property taxes for 2013.

A preliminary budget released by City of Trail staff is calling for a 4.51 per cent increase in residential property taxes for 2013.

However, the budget numbers are only a “best case scenario” for the city, said Mayor Dieter Bogs, and flesh out a wish list of city projects and expenditures.

The real increase, likely nailed down in the next three-and-a-half months of deliberations by council, will be in line with inflation at two per cent or less when the budget is formally approved May 15, he said.

“This (budget) is without modifications. It hasn’t been finalized,” he said. “We don’t intend to increase taxes by (4.51) per cent. There certainly is no way we would go for that kind of increase.”

At first flush the 2013 budget is predicting a $55.91 rise in municipal property taxes to $850.20 on the average assessed value of a Trail home—set at $183,435 for the year, down from $184,540 in 2012.

Combined with a rise in water (two per cent), sewer (2.5 per cent) and garbage (3.77 per cent) user fees, taxes paid based on the preliminary 2013 budget are predicted to rise 4.51 per cent—or $72.01—to $1,669.30 on an average home.

“If you do everything that we would like to see done, and everything that should be done, this would be the kind of increase we would have,” said Bogs.

The first three-hour budget meeting by city council has already been done, with five more meetings to come as well as public consultation. Once the nearly $10-million budget is finalized, final property tax options (distribution and tax rates) will be presented.

The budget is a strategic plan of operations expressed in monetary forms. City staff prepare the budget using a set of assumptions based on the current services that the city provides.

Budgets are calculated considering historical spending patterns as well as information that is available that will impact the budget in the current year.

Many of the budget areas do have a significant labour component, the budget report noted, leaving “minimal opportunity to reduce costs without considering layoffs or service reductions.”

The largest dollar increase of all aspects of the budget comes in the area of general government, reflecting an overall increase of 7.8 per cent ($163,000) over 2012 to $2,254,050. No allowance was made in the 2013 budget at this time for the operation of the Trail Airport.

General government could account for over one third of the total taxation increase for this year.

The second largest dollar increase could be in protective services, with an $87,450 increase (4.27 per cent) over 2012 predicted. The total budget could be $2,133,100.

The cost per RCMP member would be $159,480 for 2013, up from $150,670. The city pays 70 per cent of the cost per member. However, the full 14-member compliment of RCMP members is not budgeted for due to vacancies, according to the 2013 Budget Overview.

Administration could rise by 11 per cent ($28,850) to $287,350 with a possible increase of $47,500 in legal fees for the year.

And wage increases of $48,500 could help increase the financial management budget by almost seven per cent ($61,700) to $948,000 as the city deals with a CUPE wage increase, deputy treasurer status change and other contract adjustments.

General government operations budget could jump almost 11 per cent to $451,550 (up $44,450) with the hiring of a new communication and events coordinator ($40,750).

The library and culture budget could bump up around eight per cent, or $48,600, to $658,950, not including a nearly $80,000 funding increase request from the library.

On the good side, the debt services budget could reflect a decrease of 6.41 per cent, or $29,750 over 2012, after the city fully paid its lease requirement on its parking meters ($20,850).

Transportation services and parks and recreation are expenses still to be covered in the budget report, as is revenue.